Rick and Morty’s virtual reality debut is a hilarious step forward for VR gaming
Whether you watch the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty or not, the new VR game based on the series is worth checking out. In one of the most fitting matchups of fictional property and game developer from recent memory, the masters of VR funny at Owlchemy Labs (Job Simulator) teamed up with the series' creators to make the hilarious and immersive Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality, out today on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. We've been playing the surprisingly deep game all this week.
If you've seen clips from Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality and you own a Vive or Rift, your first thought was probably something like "this looks exactly like Job Simulator." I certainly went into this expecting a somewhat predictable mashup of Job Simulator + popular fictional property. What I found, though, were unexpected layers of creative gameplay that far surpass what we saw in Owlchemy's hilarious 2016 VR classic.
An Owlchemy Labs representative told us the company was able to take Job Simulator's existing interactions and physics and use them as merely the groundwork for Rick and Morty. The developers were then able to focus development for the new game on diving deeper with puzzles and narrative. It shows.
In that sense, it's less a companion to Job Simulator, and more like a sequel – one which just happens to be set in the world of one of the most popular animated series today.
Job Simulator was mostly about manipulating everyday objects using motion controls – a great intro-to-VR experience from early 2016, but not necessarily gameplay that would translate as well into a Year-Two VR game. Rick and Morty takes that game's "you can pick up and play with anything around you" approach, but adds mobility (both through teleporting around Rick's garage, and opening portals to environments ranging from alien planets to a bathroom) and a more unpredictable, less formulaic series of events as the story unfolds.
The result is one of my favorite VR games to date. While other top choices like Robo Recall and Arizona Sunshine bring the classic shooter genre to VR, Rick and Morty feels like an entirely new style of game that wouldn't work anywhere but VR. It's less like a classic game and more like being sucked into an episode of the quirky Cartoon Network series. (While there are plenty of inside references for fans of the show, it's still plenty fun and funny if you've never seen it.)
Gameplay revolves around puzzles – just like Job Simulator – only more advanced, with extra layers. While in Job Sim, you may have been tasked with grabbing the requisite items to cook a meal or fix a car, a typical Rick and Morty puzzle invites more time, thought, movement and exploration. You might start by figuring out which one of the many objects from Rick's workbench or storage shelf you need, take it through a portal to another dimension, experience a cinematic sequence with Rick and Morty that climaxes in a shootout with aliens, then collect something else you need before returning to the shop. Each puzzle takes longer than Job Sim's equivalents, is harder (in a good way) and varies more from one to the next.
While they aren't always physically present in your space, you also get plenty of interactions with the show's title characters. (You actually play the role of a Rick-created Morty clone.) These non-player character interactions are much more lifelike and immersive than the floating robot overlords giving you instructions in Job Simulator.
The cartoon style might make the NPCs (non-player characters) more believable than characters in VR games striving for a more realistic visual style. Because VR graphics and displays aren't to real-life levels yet, your mind can more easily believe that you're living inside a cartoon vs. a real-world environment.
It shouldn't be surprising that the game will make you laugh out loud many times. Expect the same sharp, satirical, nonsensical and adult-focused humor from the show. (What I would have given to have been a fly on the wall during the brainstorming sessions for this game – I can only imagine the jokes and tasks that they ultimately decided went too far.)
Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality launches today for Oculus Rift (Touch controls required) and HTC Vive. We highly recommend it to anyone with a PC-based VR setup and a funny bone. If you appreciate satire that's as razor-sharp as it is silly and quirky, it's the funniest game in VR, with immersive and creative gameplay that blends puzzle, narrative and adult humor about as seamlessly as possible.